updated 1/6/2007 12:04:14 AM ET 2007-01-06T05:04:14

The Japanese inventor of instant noodles, a snack that has sold billions of servings worldwide since its launch, died on Friday at the age of 96, according to an official at Nissin Food Products Co., the company he founded.

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Born in Taiwan in 1910 while it was under Japanese occupation, Momofuku Ando ran clothing and other companies in Taipei and Osaka early in his career.

He was inspired to develop the world’s first instant noodle product after coming across a long line of people waiting to buy fresh “ramen” noodles from a black market stall during the food shortages after World War Two, Japanese media said.

After his Chicken Ramen product became hugely popular in 1958, despite a luxury price-tag of 35 yen, he went on to bring out the Cup Noodle in 1971.

Providing the instant noodles in a waterproof styrofoam container that could be used to cook them using just hot water proved a stroke of marketing genius that made the product a hit with time-pressed people around the world.

Ando remained in the public eye until recently -- appearing on television in 2005 to promote a version of the Cup Noodle adapted for astronauts to eat aboard the space shuttle Discovery.

Often seen devouring servings of the dish he invented, Ando opened a museum devoted to instant noodles in Osaka in 1999. Ando is survived by his wife, Masako.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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